With today being National Maple Syrup Day in Canada and the US I decided to find out a little more about Maple trees and their sap.
To help me understand a little better I interviewed André Pollender, a multi award-winning producer of maple syrup and maple vinegar. Producing around 225 gallons of maple syrup every year on his 125 acre farm in Cabane du PicBois, he seemed like a good guy to ask.
André still uses the traditional method of tapping each of his 1,200 trees with a metal spile and collecting the maple sap in metal buckets. With it taking around 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of maple syrup, the story behind this sweet treat seemed a lot more hard work than I first thought:
How did you start farming Maple sap?
It’s a family business; In 1990, I bought the farm next to my father’s place and started tapping trees. I learnt off my father and grandfather. We’re the fifth generation of maple syrup producers.
Does it take a lot of effort?
The best way to take care of the trees is almost to leave them alone; about 10 per cent of the sugar bush is other species of tree other than maple – oak, pine, spruce, to keep the ecosystem balanced. It’s like a garden.
Do you tap all year round?
Production is less than four weeks every year, at the end of winter. We need the frost on the night and thaw early morning for the right conditions, which helps draw the sap up out of the tree. The thaw creates pressure and that’s when the sap drips out. It’s so reliant on the weather.
How do you make maple syrup?
The sap is boiled down to make a concentration. The concentration in the sap is 3% sugar and we boil it until it is around 66%. It’s a 100% natural product, no additives or processing.
Do you get sick of maple syrup?
For me, it’s my blood, so no I never get sick of it. I love to drizzle it on pancakes or ice cream, and you can use it in, or on, cakes!!
Your favourite maple recipe?
Put some in white wine as a Kir – replace the Cassis with maple syrup. We call that a P’t’ Bec – a ‘sweet little kiss’. Another drink my sons make is with Guinness, Scotch whisky and maple syrup!
Tell us about maple vinegar... I haven't heard much about it?
It’s a new product to the UK – my maple vinegar will be available on line very soon. I have spent many years developing the distinct sweet and sour flavour – you can use it as a replacement for balsamic, as a salad dressing; to glaze fish and meats… use it everywhere – it’s almost drinkable!
Any plans to sell maple water?
Not myself, but there are a lot of producers who want to sell the sap in the UK; the best maple water has to be NAPSI certified, an assurance of quality, so they must get their sap tested and certified first. You can already buy NAPSI water in the UK.
Why do you think Canadian maple syrup is the best in the world?
I think we have the right climate and weather; the ‘terroir’ is also important and we have the right maple tree – red maple trees give less than 2% sugar so you could need 50-60 litres of sap for 1 litre of syrup, whereas the maple sugar tree that we grow is a higher percentage, 3-3.5%.In Quebec we have the right trees and the right weather, so not only do I think Canadian maple syrup is the best, but the very best is from Quebec! Canada produces 71% of the world’s maple syrup, and Quebec produces 91% of that. We have the know-how that has been built up over many generations.
To find out more visit welovemaple.co.uk